Galwegians celebrated a return to Ireland's top flight with a narrow 12 -11 victory over aristocrats Cork Constitution on opening day of the Ulster Bank League.
This two-to-one try victory will be a real confidence boost for the Galway city club as it heads to Dublin to face Terenure at Lakelands on Saturday (4.30pm ).
Out of the top division since the 2008/09 season, Galwegians produced a solid performance to record their first home victory over Con, having only beaten them once at Temple Hill in 2004.
Con had travelled with high hopes of making a successful start to their 25th consecutive season in the top flight, but they found Galwegians more than a match on their home ground on Saturday, well organised and well drilled under coach Matt Brown.
The visitors enjoyed the first half wind, but it was the home side that grabbed the early initiative. Capitalised on a misfiring Con line-out, Connacht Academy flanker Sean O'Brien grabbed possession from an overthrow, and some super handling involving captain Ja Naughton and Conor Kindregan opened up space for Connacht Academy recruit, centre Cormac Brennan, who broke through the cover to claim the opening try. Outhalf Aidan Moynihan added the extras for a 7-0 lead.
Con enjoyed plenty of possession, and their superior scrum was the launch pad for their best attacks. Their best scoring chance of the first half came after JJ O'Neill added potency to break up the right, but the momentum was lost when Jermyn went to ground with a two-man overlap. Ireland u-20 out half Tomas Quinlan's super break also came to nothing when Galwegians did well at the breakdown to turn over ball and relieve the pressure.
When Con lost fullback Dara Lyons, playing his 14th season in the AIL, to the sin bin for a high tackle on left sign Ed O'Keefe, Galwegians should have capitalised, but once again Con's scrum proved pivotal, handing the initiative back to the visitors who opened their scoring with a 30th minute penalty from Quinlan. Mistakes crept into the home side's game which kept them on the back foot, but their well organised defence kept Con from crossing the whitewash with Quinlan adding a second penalty before the break.
Wegians closed out the half with a penalty attempt which went wide as Con continued to dominate the possession stakes early in the second half. However, under pressure, Con's failure to secure clean line-out ball and clear their lines paved the way for Wegians' second try. The pack, which included Connacht lock Aly Muldowney, put the visitors under pressure five metres from the line, while replacement Caolin Blade played his part, helping to suck in the Con cover. When the ball was sent wide, Ed O'Keefe profited when Con ran out of numbers, touching down in the left corner.
Although Moynihan missed the conversion, Wegians held a 12 - 6 lead midway through the second half as both sides lost players to the sin bin. Con made it count when openside John Ryan broke from the scrum before Higgins fed Desmond who dived over on the right wing. Quinlan missed the touchline conversion to leave a point between the sides.
However Galwegians finished the stronger. Centre Brian Murphy charged down Higgins' attempted clearance, but dropped the ball inches from the line, while Dave Clarke's late penalty kick hit the upright after flanker Josh Pimm was pinged at the breakdown. It was enough to secure a deserved victory on a day Galwegian president Dick O'Hanlon led a special event at which former club and IRFU presidents, including Don Crowley, to celebrate the club's return to division 1A
Galwegians: G Tynan, D Symes, C Brennan, B Murphy, E O'Keeffe, A Moynihan, B Lee, J Naughton (cpt ), J Dineen, J East, A Muldowney, M Commins, S O'Brien, J Pimm, A Ryan. Replacements, C Blade for Symes, D Clarke for Moynihan, M Kelly for Pimm, J Anaya for Dineen, D McHugh for East, East for Naughton.
Cork Constitution: D Lyons, K Dersmond, JJ O'Neill, N Hodson, R Jermyn, T Quinlan, J Higgins, B Quinlan, M Abbott, G Sweeney, B Hayes, C Kindregan, C O'Flaherty, J Ryan, L Cahill. Replacements, A Slattery for Duffy, S O'Dwyer for Kindregan, A Ryan for Higgins, R Horgan for Jermyn.
Referee: S Gaffikin (IRFU ).